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A Q&A with President and Sister Kusch

President Bruce C. Kusch and Sister Alynda Kusch
May 30, 2023 11:15 AM

"Faith in the Savior means that we act. We exercise no faith when we don’t do anything. Sometimes we may not know clearly what will result but we have to start doing something. If we are undecided but a certain course of action is the right thing to do, start. Do something. If it is not the right course of action, the Lord will let you know. "
Brother Jon Nichols. So, a few weeks ago, President Kusch came to my office and said: “I want to do something different for devotional. I want to do a Q and A from our students.” He wasn’t interested in what questions I had for him. He wanted to know what you all had for him. And so in preparation for this, I have been wandering the halls of Ensign College for the last couple of weeks. I think a couple of you were surprised when I sat down beside you and asked you a few questions. And your questions covered a variety of different topics. Some of you seeking personal and spiritual insight and some of you just wanting to know what Sister Kusch’s favorite animal was. Today, we get to cover all those sorts of topics. The questions I ask today come from you. Things that are pressing on your minds. Things that if you had the opportunity to sit down one on one with President and Sister Kusch and seek some mentoring advice or just get to know them better, that’s what we want to cover today. I guess as we get started President and Sister Kusch, I was surprised by the number of students, not really surprised but they just want to know how you got here. Questions about, how did you become president of Ensign College? Did you apply for it? And also, how were you both fully prepared to serve in this role as President of Ensign College.

President Kusch. So we do get asked that question often. About a month ago, Sister Kusch and I were asked to speak at a devotional of a young single adult ward. One of the questions they wanted me to address was: “When did you know you were going to become a college president and the President of Ensign College?” I had to think back a little bit. I think it was on the 31st of January of 2017. Then President Uchtdorf came to a devotional in the theater of the Conference Center and announced that there would be a change and that on the 17th of April, I would become the President of Ensign College. That was a Tuesday at our regular devotional. We found out the Friday before. It was the 27th of January that I was going to become a college president. Before that, I had absolutely no clue that anything like that was going to happen. President Uchtdorf described my role as a professional appointment. It is not a calling but it is a professional appointment appointed by the Board of Trustees. You don’t apply. Presidents of church schools don’t apply for the job. I got a call the day before on a Thursday afternoon about 4:30 from President Uchtdorf’s secretary asking if I could come and see him the next morning about 10:30. At about 7:30 on Friday morning, I got another phone call from his secretary asking if Sister Kusch could also accompany me to the meeting with President Uchtdorf. For probably the first ten minutes of our meeting with him, we still had no idea why we were there.

In terms of preparation, I suppose it’s a lifetime of experiences that eventually prepare you for something like this. We had, independent of each other, some very interesting feelings and impressions before we came home from Mexico, about three months before we came home from Mexico. We left for our mission from Rexburg, Idaho, fully intending that we would go back to Rexburg. I had my job lined up to teach classes that I was really interested in. That is what we did. We came home and we did that. But about three months before we came home, I had some very strong impressions about then, LDS Business College. It surprised me. I knew a little bit about the school. I had virtually no involvement with the school other than a little consulting project that the colleague and I had done many years before. I just tucked those feelings away. I felt like those feelings were not for me to act on until or unless someone in authority invited me to do something to act upon those impressions. So we had been home about six months. December of 2015 and I had actually been here for a meeting and had seen President Richards for about five minutes in the meeting. He and I had to have a follow-up conversation the following week. He mentioned that the school was looking for a chief academic officer and wondered if I would be interested. I shared a little bit about the impressions. He sent me a job description. I had qualifications that seemed to meet the basic qualifications of the job. I went home and I showed the job description to Sister Kusch and I told her about my conversation. I said: “Oh, by the way. You should know that about three months before we came home from Mexico, I had these really strong impressions about LDS Business College and I didn’t say anything to you.” To which , she replied:

Sister Kusch. “That’s really interesting because about three months before we came home from Mexico, I will tell you I was sitting at my desk in the kitchen of the mission home and had very strong feelings about coming here and at the time it was, what? It was not anything we had ever thought about and I never said anything to anyone about them.“

President Kusch. So, living in Utah is nothing we ever planned. Being here is nothing we ever planned. Certainly, being the president of this school is nothing we ever planned. The only thing we can conclude is I guess it was something the Lord had for us if we had prepared and done our part.

The other thing people often ask is: “ How long are you going to do this?” It is no badge of accomplishment or courage or endurance I suppose but I am now the longest serving president of all the CES schools or will be August 1st when there is a new president of BYU/Idaho and a new president of BYU. My response is, I wasn’t about to ask someone who is about 12 years older than me who is in for life how long he thought that I should be here and how long this assignment would last. We don’t know how long we will serve. It has been a little over six years in April. We are here for as long as the Lord will have us and the Board of Trustees will put up with me.

Brother Nichols. So you both talked about that spiritual impression you received. It’s a pretty big decision to know what is coming. One thing that did come up when I talked to students was this thought on decision making. How do I know the best decisions to make? How do I seek guidance? We have students ranging from fresh out of high school to post mission to parents and single parents. When it comes to making those decisions, what advice or counsel would you give on, “How do I know what decision to make?”

Sister Kusch. Brother Nichols sent us these questions. I have been thinking about this. There are two scriptures that came to my mind. One is from the Doctrine and Covenants, section 8 and section 9, when the Lord is teaching Oliver Cowdery about how to translate. One of the wonderful things that he tells him is that the spirit of revelation that you feel when the Lord is inspiring you to do something is the same revelation that Moses used to part the Red Sea. How cool is that? And then he told him that he had a responsibility as well to study it and to think about it and to decide and then to take that decision to the Lord and ask.

Now my father a maker of T-charts. He loved them. If we ever came to him and said: “Dad, I don’t know what to do about this particular decision.” And in the case that I am thinking of specifically, it was about whether I should stay in Salt Lake or whether I should move to California. This is before we were engaged or married. He said: “Well, first you should take a piece of paper.” “I know dad.” “And you make a T-chart and you put California on one side and Utah on the other and you list all of the wonderful things about both of them. And then you think about it and you study about it and then you take it to the Lord and he will answer and he will give you the answer that is the shortest of the wonderful things about – I mean its just the way it works at that time.

The other scripture that came to my mind was from Moroni. In Moroni 7 when Moroni is explaining that things that inspire you, things that help you to come to the Savior, things that bring good thoughts and our righteous desires, he said then those are from the Lord. So do your part to hear him and then do something about it. Just having the feeling that this is the right thing to do and then not doing anything about it, it’s a waste of spiritual power.

President Kusch. If I could add to that too. I would say don’t be paralyzed by indecision or a lack of action. Faith in the Savior means that we act. We exercise no faith when we don’t do anything. Sometimes we may not know clearly what will result but we have to start doing something. If we are undecided but a certain course of action is the right thing to do, start. Do something. If it is not the right course of action, the Lord will let you know. There have been a number of things where we just knew that we needed to do what the Lord was prompting us to do, not know whether things were going to work out but only know this is what the Lord wanted us to do.

When we left Northern California on a beautiful summer day for Rexburg, Idaho, there were some people who thought we were out of our minds. San Jose, California to Rexburg, Idaho, what are you thinking? All we knew is, all we knew then is that the Lord wanted us to do that and He was directing us to do that and that is all we knew. Before I was hired, I was asked what my long-term plans were if I came to BYU/Idaho. I said: “My long term plans are to come here and to be a teacher until the day that I retire. And then when that happens, my wife and I will start going on missions and beyond that, we have no long-term plans.” And that is what we went there to do. It didn’t quite work out that way.

Brother Nichols. The Lord had other plans for you.

Sister Kusch. Just one other thought on that. You know that President Nelson has taught us often about letting the Lord prevail in our lives, letting God prevail in your life. I don’t know if you have thought about what that means for you but I will tell you what it means for me. It doesn’t mean that we sit in a chair and read the scriptures all day long and that we are perfect in every way. That is not what he is trying to tell us. It come back to what he was teaching Oliver Cowdery, that you make a decision and then you act upon it. I loved my life in California. It was a great place to raise our family. I would have stayed there forever had I had the choice and the Lord was say, “You plan your life.” I would say, “I love it here. It is wonderful” and I would have stayed. I would have missed out on all that has happened since then. I did not know how much I would love living in Rexburg, Idaho, but the Lord knew that. I didn’t know how much I would love Ensign College but the Lord knew that I would. I would have missed out on our years in Rexburg which were wonderful, our mission in Mexico, knowing you and meeting you and loving you, I would have missed all of that because I would have settled for much less. That is what President Nelson is trying to teach us in letting the Lord prevail in our lives and he will make much more out of it than you could if you were choosing yourself.

Brother Nichols. Great counsel on decision making. When we think about what decisions we need to make, probably the number one thing that did come up in discussions was how to balance it all. We have students here thinking about their academics and that is probably what comes up first to mind, “How do I balance my school with my personal life, with my church and spiritual life. There is just not enough hours in the day and so where am I dedicating my time. In thinking about decision making, sometimes everything seems important. What do we do and how do we find a good balance?

President Kusch. There is an approach to managing material in a manufacturing plant. 

Brother Nichols. This is a business professor talking to us, by the way.

President Kusch. It is called, Just In Time, and it means that material comes just in time when it needs to be used. You don’t stock up all this inventory because that is just a sum cost that you have just spent money and it is doing nothing but the material comes from the vendor when you need it on the assembly line on not before. I think there is a principal there that applies in trying to balance our lives. First of all, you have to identify what hour priorities are. If you don’t know what your priorities are and you haven’t been very deliberate about identifying what your priorities are, you won’t have balance because you will be all over the place. You have to identify what your priorities are and you have to then, very carefully and with inspiration, you have to allocate time for those things. When it is time to go to school, you appear at school. When it is time to do your homework, you are doing your homework. When it is time to go to church and magnify a church calling, you do that. I wish we would not talk about balance because balance is impossible to achieve. I don’t know what balance is. What does balance mean? I spend equal amounts of time doing things. Life doesn’t work that way.

I know there was a question about distraction too. Distraction is a choice. We choose to be distracted by things. Nobody makes us be distracted. Things are out there. I think the model is the Savior’s example in section 20 of the Doctrine and Covenants where it says that the Savior suffered temptations but he gave no heed to them. Temptations, distractions, we choose. We choose whether or not we are going to pick up our phone and check our Instagram or we are going to respond to something. We choose whether or not we are going to be sending text messages while we are trying to do our homework. We choose those things so you have to choose. The other thing that I would add and this to me is for me, it is the definitive definition of whether or not and I will use balance, whether or not my life is in or out of balance. We as Latter-Day Saints have all made covenants. Many here have not only made the baptismal covenant but have made temple covenants. If there ever comes a time in our lives where something in our life is more important and is given higher priority than keeping our covenants, then our life is out of balance and we should speedily repent. Covenants, as has been taught by apostles and prophets, bind us to God and to the Savior. They give us help and strength that otherwise we would not have. There is power in keeping out covenants which helps us be focused on the things that matter most.

Brother Nichols. So in thinking about this covenant focus, I think if we listen to what our church leaders have been telling us is making eternal things a priority. That can be challenging. I think I would love to go to the temple weekly but I have these other things and should I feel guilty about that? How do I make sure that eternal things are given a priority while being reasonable about these other things that are going along?

Sister Kusch. I know that I have shared this before and if you have heard it, sorry but I am going to say it again. When we lived in Rexburg, I served a church service mission to the distribution center. One afternoon I was in the center and I was the only person that was there. We had temple clothes in the back and distribution books and videos and stuff in the front. I was straightening some things and a man walked in to the distribution center. I said “hello” and he said “hello” to me and then I just watched him. He went around the distribution center and he picked up every video and read the back and put it down and then he walked over and picked up every book and he looked at it and he set it down and he went to the temple pictures and he picked up one, he looked at it and he read the back about which temple it was. Some of the ones he put back and some of the ones he kept. When he was all done, it was just fascinating. I thought, this is so interesting to me. He was really focused on what was there. He brought them to the counter. With each one, he held it up and showed me the picture and he said, “Sister, this is a picture of the London temple?” And I said, “It is.” And he said, “Have you been there?” And I said, “I have.” He said, “It is beautiful, isn’t it?” “Yes.” And then he put it on the counter. And then he picked up the next one and he said, “Sister, this is a picture of the Hawaii temple?” And I said, “Brother, it is.” And he said, “Have you been there.” And I said, “I have.” He said, “It is beautiful, isn’t it.” And I said, “It is.” I was so grateful that everyone he had picked up, I could say I had been there. And then he laid them down and he told me this. “I have been away from the church for a very long time. I am coming back because I know that it is the place to be but it is hard because of have old habits and old thoughts and I am trying really hard to concentrate on things of eternity so I bought these pictures so I can put them up in my house so that I see those when I walk through and it reminds me of the promises that I have made.”

There is a big difference between that and maybe some of the things that you have on the walls in your apartment. Maybe some of the videos that you watch or the games that you play. I’m not saying that you only have to read the scriptures and you must have temple pictures all over. What I am saying is that the things that you focus on, the things that you think about, and the things that you think about will be the things that you want to do. Just look around and take note of what is on your phone and what is in your play list and what games you play and what pictures you have and what you are surrounding yourself with. Maybe take a lesson from him that having things around that will help us are way better than having things around us that are a total distraction and hurting us spiritually. I am easily distracted. I will admit that to you. When I study, it has to be quiet and I have to put my phone away and I have to not have the TV on. I know that you study in different ways. For me, I can’t have my phone in the same room because I want to see, “Ooh, is there something I . . .” Find out what works for you and if it is a distraction, put it away. Choose better.

Brother Nichols. You mentioned we have these existing habits. A question that came up. Our students look at both of you and I think they would classify you both as being successful in your personal and spiritual lives. The question came up: “What habits should I be developing now?” Are there attributes or talents that you developed in your life that has really set the pattern for you to succeed.

President Kusch. It’s the basic stuff. If I am not diligent and constant in my prayers and study of the scriptures, I feel it. It’s those things. Let me first say, we are not perfect people. Sister Kusch would be the first to attest that I am not a perfect man.

Sister Kusch. Nor am I. I am shaking my head, not at him but at myself.

President Kusch. I would never comment on that in public. Sister Kusch is amazing. Before we got married, we made a promise to each other and I think to the Lord that we would do our very best to be obedient to the things our leaders ask of us to do and to let God prevail in our lives. We have tried to do that. We have not been perfect at that. We could share some things that would take more time than we have. I believe that the Lord puts opportunities in front of us from time to time to find out if we are all in. If there has been anything that we have tried to do in our lives, again we have not been perfect, we have tried to be all in as Latter-Day Saints and people that the Lord can depend on. We take these things and I put them all in what I describe as an experience bank and we learn from them. Because of of what we have experienced and learned from the very beginning of our marriage, we trust the Lord. We trust that whatever we are asked to do, He will help us, He will bless us and we trust Him and we want to be people that He can trust.

Sister Kusch. I do not want you to misunderstand that our life is wonderful and without problems and we have just skated along. That is not true. I would like to teach you something that my neighbor and very good friend taught me. It is the principal of the in between. She loves to go to church. She said, “I love to take the sacrament. I love in Sunday School. I love to be in Relief Society. I love to learn from the other members of my ward. I love to come to church. I take those feelings and my Sabbath day is wonderful after that. And then I wake up on Monday morning and I am worried and frazzled and troubled. I don’t feel like I did the day before. I think how many days is it before I can go back to church and I can take the sacrament and I can be with the members of my ward and feel the spirit again. How many days is that before I can do that. That is the in between.” She said, “I learned some strategies on making the in between shorter. Not that the week is shorter but that on Monday I can still feel the spirit. And on Tuesday, I can still feel the spirit. I am trying to shorten the in between time from when the Lord speaks to me.”

Now she has really good strategies and she has shared them with me. I am not going to tell you what they are because they are hers. I know the things that help me and you can find the things that will help you shorten the in between so that your experiences with the spirit are more often and you don’t have to wait a whole week before you go back to church and feel the spirit again.

Brother Nichols. Thank you for that. I want to be sensitive to our time. I have a whole list of questions. I thought for a moment we might have a little bit of fun. Can we have fun at devotionals?

Sister Kusch. Yes we can.

Brother Nichols. I want to do a little bit of a lightening round of questions. These are questions that did not really fit anywhere else. I thought we would take about two minutes. Maybe give you five seconds each. So this is rapid fire. If you think too long, I am just going to move on. I would like both of you to answer these too. Here we go. Time on the clock. Get ready. What is your favorite meal?

President Kusch. Bacon cheeseburger with lots of my barbeque sauce.

Sister Kusch. Avocado toast with my homemade wheat bread.

Brother Nichols. Talk about opposites. What is your favorite animal?

President Kusch. Trout, on the hook.

Sister Kusch. A giraffe looking in your window of the front of your car.

Brother Nichols. Your favorite hymn?

Sister Kusch. How Firm a Foundation, verse 7.

President Kusch. Hark All Ye Nations.

Brother Nichols. You have both in previous devotionals talked about and perhaps even shared your musical talent. What is your favorite song to play on the guitar or sing?

President Kusch. Blowin in the Wind.

Brother Nichols. Blowin in the Wind?

Sister Kusch. That is like asking me which child is my favorite. I love all kinds of music and so I can’t name you one thing.

Brother Nichols. Okay. I guess we will take that. Who is your favorite band?

President Nichols. Today?

Brother Nichols. Today. All time. However you want to approach that one.

President Kusch. Today is a group called Phillips, Craig and Dean. But it has been the Eagles. It has been the Doobie Brothers.

Sister Kusch. The Beach Boys.

President Kusch. And Peter, Paul and Mary. You can’t exactly call them a band.

Brother Nichols. Musical group.

Sister Kusch. Righteous Brothers. Beach Boys. Phillips, Craig and Dean.

Brother Nichols. President, you have mentioned in previous devotional talks that you are a big find of The Princess Bride. Can each of you tell us your favorite scene from that movie?

President Kusch. Yes, and I have been practicing.

Sister Kusch. He is going to do the voice for you so just prepare yourselves.

President Kusch. Inigo Montoya is ready to avenge his father’s death. And he says, “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” That is my favorite scene.

Brother Nichols. You nailed that. Good luck Sister Kusch.

Sister Kusch. My favorite scene is called The Battle of the Wits. It is on Youtube. It is way too long to … it is my favorite, besides that and your rendition of it. Battle of the Wits. Go find it.

Brother Nichols. I would agree. Excellent scene from the movie. Who is the most interesting person you have had the chance to meet since serving here at Ensign College?

President Kusch. I have met President Nelson and I would certainly have to put him at the pinnacle. There are two people that I have met and become friends. One is Mark Willis who had an amazing career and as a professional as a church leader. I love him for his consecration. The other is Davis Smith who is founder of Codopaxi. Davis has become a friend. Davis is an amazing leader. He is preparing in a few weeks. He and his wife are be mission leaders of a mission in Brazil. Davis is one of the finest people I have ever met and Davis is also just an excellent leader.

Sister Kusch. For me it is Dan Devenham. He is the voice of Relative Race. There is one other. It is a couple. Their last name is brother and sister Hughes. You will probably never, ever meet them. They are substantial doners to this school and they love you. They are truly amazing people.

Brother Nichols. Last question of our little lightening round. You have taught us to be lifelong learners. In order to keep you accountable, what is a hobby or skill you are currently learning?

President Kusch. I am trying to refine my ability to build fly rods. I have built every fly rod that I fish with. I have a closet full of fly rods that I have built. I have one on my table now. Each time I build a fly rod, I try to do it with more precision and more beauty. A fly rod to me is a beautiful thing. I really enjoy that. I enjoy hooking a fish on a rod that I have built and not having the rod break.

Sister Kusch. I am learning more about how to do family history research. In doing that, I have been collecting family stories and I am compiling my own Saints book of my people that are inspiring stories.

President Kusch. That is the difference between Sister Kusch and me. I want to go fishing. She does family history work.

Brother Nichols. If you don’t mind me sharing. President Kusch comes into my office a few weeks ago and said he is really starting to get into Legos recently. I’ll let you ask any follow up questions as it relates to that.

President Kusch. That is true.

Sister Kusch. I will tell you right now, our daughter and her children have just arrived in Dubai. She has a two year assignment with her job and he has built a Lego downtown Dubai which has a prominent place right next to our fireplace and it will stay there the two years she is gone. It’s amazing.

Brother Nichols. That is awesome. In closing, you shared a lot of great insight today. Thank you for being open and frank and insightful. Is there anything is closing you would like to share with our students and perhaps even close with your testimony. Sister Kusch we will start with you.

Sister Kusch. I don’t know if you know how many times, how many days, how many meetings, how many times during the day you are thought of, you are loved, you are prayed over. We mourn with you. We celebrate with you. We are amazed by what you are doing. So, keep it up. Keep being wonderful. Really, as I talk to you and hear your stories, you amaze me at what you have sacrificed to be here. I am grateful for what you teach me. I want you to know that this is the Lord’s school. As President sits in meetings with the First Presidency and members of the Quorum of the Twelve, they love this place. They love you. What happens here happens under their direction. This is the Savior’s school. So I know that and because of that, it is a wonderful place to be. I am grateful for the things that you teach me. I love the Savior and I am so thankful that we are studying about Him this year in Come Follow Me. I just leave you my love and my testimony that what we are doing here is true and will be beneficial to you now and in the eternities and I do that in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

President Kusch. I certainly echo what Sister Kusch said and I first want to express my love to each and every one of you. It is such a blessing to see you, to shake your hands, to give you hugs, to just be with you. I bear my testimony that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been and is being restored. That it began with the prophet Joseph in this dispensation and continues today under the direction of Russell M. Nelson. I can share my testimony. I can bear my testimony but each of us has to have our own testimony of truth. I would say, don’t doubt. I am privileged to be, each month, in a meeting with the First Presidency and a few members of the Quorum of the Twelve and other leaders. There is no question in my mind. My witness is as certain as it could be that the men who we sustain as prophets, seers and revelators, are prophets, seers and revelators. They are what we claim them to be. They are what we sustain them to be. They are the Savior’s watchmen on the tower to help us, to guide us, to correct us, to protect us. We all may have questions from time to time. There may be things we don’t understand but when that happens, don’t stop trusting prophets, seers and revelators. They know and because they know, we can be certain that when we follow them, blessings will come. I have never met anyone in my entire life and I have never in my entire life thought following what a prophet has asked me to is a really dumb thing. Never heard that. I don’t suspect that I will ever hear it from anyone. No one will ever hear that from me. I know that the Savior lives. I mentioned to Sister Kusch this morning as I was in the Come Follow Me reading this week. As we have read about the final days of the Savior’s mortal ministry and his time on earth. Reading about his betrayal by one of his apostles, my heart ached for that and my love for the Savior deepened. And so I testify of Him. I testify that we are members of his church and that He is real and so is our Heavenly Father. And I bear that testimony in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

About the Speaker

President Bruce C. Kusch and Sister Alynda Kusch

President Bruce C. Kusch became the 13th president of Ensign College on April 17, 2017. At the time of his appointment he had been serving as the Chief Academic Officer.

President Kusch began his academic career at BYU-Idaho in August 2002 as a member of the faculty of the Business Management department. In July 2008 he was appointed Associate Academic Vice President for Curriculum, serving in that role until June 2012 when he and Sister Kusch were called to preside over the Mexico Cuernavaca Mission.

Prior to joining the BYU-Idaho faculty, President Kusch worked in the high technology industry in Silicon Valley, CA in various sales, marketing, general management, and consulting roles. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Phoenix, an MBA from the Keller Graduate School of Management, and a PhD in instructional design from Idaho State University.

Sister Alynda Kusch is a graduate of BYU-Idaho. Following her graduation, she taught Culinary Arts until she and President Kusch left for their missionary service in Mexico. If you know Sister Kusch at all, you know she is a master teacher, and master designer and creator of textile art.

Both born and raised in Southern California, President and Sister Kusch were married in the Los Angeles Temple in 1974. They are the parents of four children, and 15 grandchildren.
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